Brynna loves church. Really, she loves anywhere with people. She is a firm believer in “the more the merrier.” In addition to just the general opportunity for an audience, she LOVES her teacher on Sundays. Miss Kimberly babysat recently and BG cried for 10 minutes when she left. So you can imagine our surprise when she told us a few weeks ago that she didn’t want to go to church. We still went to church (because church is not negotiable, because she’s 5 and changes her mind more often than her underwear, because she’s the child and we’re the parents). And before you call CPS, she had fun as she always does. (Again. She’s 5.) Fast forward a month or so. We weren’t able to be at church this weekend but on Monday while David gave her a bath, Brynna started asking when we go to church next. David explained that we would go on Wednesday, and her response was that she likes her class on Wednesday but just doesn’t want to go on Sundays.
Please note: Brynna thinks our trip to Disney World last August happened “last night” and she’s going to have a new sister “in two weeks.” (No, I am not pregnant. She decided this unilaterally.) The fact that she understands what day it is is noteworthy. The fact that she was so concerned yet hadn’t been to church in several days is alarming. Not take-immediate-action, blame-the-staff, cause-a-scene alarming. Just alarming.
The underlying issue is that 2 boys in Brynna’s class have severe behavioral issues. After asking more questions, I realized this: Brynna knows Miss Kimberly has to give special attention to the boys and that their behavior is not what it should be. In her 5-year-old way of processing information, if the teacher says “Do X” and a boy disobeys consistently, the teacher doesn’t have control. If the teacher doesn’t have control, Brynna can’t trust her. If Brynna can’t trust her, she’s not safe and all kinds of warnings start going off in her head – namely, “I need to take control because these people have no idea what they are doing.”
So yesterday I called the preschool director, and we discussed the situation. There’s rarely an easy answer, so we talked through options. But in addition to anything else we do, one thing is definite. I am Brynna’s mom. My job is to assure Brynna she’s safe, she can trust Miss Kimberly, Mrs. Cherry, Mommy and Daddy.
I tell the whole story to say this:
Had I taken things at face value, I might have been tempted to call and complain to the church rather than discuss what we can do together. I might have wanted to pull Brynna out of the class immediately or demand that other arrangements be made for kids with behavioral issues. I would have responded to the SYMPTON (her fear that a boy might hurt her) rather than the PROBLEM (she feels like the authority isn’t in control, so the environment is unsafe).
I know this is what Brynna feels because Brynna is a strong-willed child. I understand how she processes information because of the book that changed my life – as a parent and really, just in general.
Strong-willed kids are not difficult. They are not rebellious for the sake of driving their parents insane (although some days it feels that way). They are smart. They are leaders and if you harness that good, the person they will become is unstoppable. But if you respond to their behaviors without understanding what’s behind them, you will at best crush their spirit and at worst, push them to complete defiance of authority.
This is not a book review. This is a plea to go buy this book (like now…click the picture). And when it arrives, read it. Highlight it, put it into practice in as many ways as you can. If your child isn’t strong-willed, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply. Much is discussed about compliant children and the differences in parenting the two.
Don’t spend another second forcing her to do her homework or grounding him from video games until you understand WHY she’s acting out and WHY he defiantly disobeys. Those are precious minutes and brain cells you can’t get back.
Brynna will go to church tonight and on Sunday. Depending on what we decide, she may need to stay in the same class for a few more weeks. That doesn’t mean she gets to have different rules or consequences. It doesn’t mean she gets away with misbehaving “because she just doesn’t like her class.” It means that I work harder. I assure her she’s safe, I show her that even when something feels out of control, she can trust that I always have her best interest in mind.
And those lessons…those won’t just affect today. Those will make her a better person.